This week my passion planner academic diary reads "In stillness and presence we align with our power." Ilea Angaza The passion planner expands on this notion by adding "This week try to find the beauty in the mundane, the sophistication in the simple. and the miraculous nature in the present moment." (How do you reference a passion planner in APA7th?)
My portfolio of choreographic outputs to date includes some born digital works including 'Alexa, Take Me Back To Reality' www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rn6vZOxWhMA , 'Alexa, Make Me Disappear' www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQuy7z1PxOYand 'Neverland: Our Story in Pixels' These ideas have been enhanced by digital technologies. In the past I have struggled to identify as a digital artist, mainly due to my lack of digital patience, rather than my digital desire. However in 2018, I became increasingly interested in what digital can do for dance. I am deeply curious about how technology can amplify, augment, disturb and disrupt artist's creative agendas. I am also excited connection and disconnection prospects, and how the meeting of the the physical and digital interface might engage new audiences and reimagine the participatory performance experience. There is a lot of potential in this undiscovered, rapidly evolving world. 2020 allowed artists to begin very exciting conversations with our communities about how digital could enhance what we already do.
This week I participated in a workshop space, where I was introduced to the Mocap facilities, and discussion exploring the possibilities and potential of MOCAP and dance in collaboration. On Monday 14th November, I entered the Green Screen room forgetting that I had hoped of walking in to a space like this many years back. I felt very focussed on my explorations of grief, the Secret Garden, play with a military parachute, an international project that I am a part of, the leadership conversations taking place in the 'Create Place' programme. Whenever I attempt to move away from the digital element within my practice, I am pulled back and drawn to it. It felt like a 'blue sky thinking dreaming session' where I was able to engage in collaborative conversations about what might be possible to explore during my masters study. For many years know I have explored the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of digital dance forms, and I have always faced barriers concerning and a lack of resources, facilities, and digital collaborator. So this was a welcomed possibility for the development of my creative practice.
I consider myself to be a proactive artist and most of my endeavours have been pushed for from me, or by the communities I engage with. This week has been different as the Green Screen Lecture was organised for us, I welcomed the encouragement from Debbie and Elisa to integrate the technology in to my work. I am reminded that sometimes my initial resistance doesn't mean that I'm not curious, sometimes it is fear around not knowing how I would pull it off. These are the best places to be in, but I can still shy away from them, or think of other artists that might be better suited to working in these spaces. I have a habit of doing that, and I do love that quality about me, but I recognise that it is a trait of my imposter syndrome.
The session opened up more questions and potential hurdles around how I can marry all of the disciplines together, particularly twith the aerial rig being in one building, the tree in peel park in another and the mocap studio in another place. This initially put me off, however in the past I have challenged myself to create work in impossible conditions in the pandemic, creating between multiple locations via zoom and it resulted in an innovative approach to working with people, an Alexa, a dancer in Cornwall via zoom, and Open Online Theatre based in London for audiences all over the globe, in partnership with Together, formerly known as MDI. This means that I am excited about how I will bring all of these explorations together, and how digital might be able to enable the merging of all practices and locations.
Despite moments of doubt and a lack of confidence in my abilities to realise collaborative ideas, I have returned to this idea of Freedom/ Escape and how 'The Secret Garden' might be able to integrate principles of escape rooms, challenge and reward systems to earn the code breaker code: freedom, leading to a culminating multi-disciplinary dance work to lead outdoors and allow audiences to unplug and to connect with what's really important; people, nature, outdoor spaces, playfully expressing themselves and being part of a collective experience. It feels very ambitious, in a time where the cost of living is rising. I am a resilient artist and digital thinker and I will find a way. Ideas take time, and thinking space. I have discovered that when I allow myself to do nothing, I realign with my creative power.
I know how lucky I am to be able to begin exploring the hybrid forms of Motion Capture, and will find the time to utilise the facilities and resources, and embed them within my multi-disciplinary practice. My reflections help me to make sense of this choreographic process as it is unfolding.
Links to previous digital dance improvisations at Middlesex University: www.youtube.com/watch?v=8n24Q-Bok_w and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfpXExJL5uc&t=145s
This tiny reel made and edited for instagram blends aerial harness vertical dance and IG Filters...
Reflection of the challenges, potential and possibilities aerial harness dance forms as a choreographic process.
“The sun shone down for nearly a week on the secret garden. The Secret Garden was what Mary called it when she was thinking of it. She liked the name, and she liked still more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut her into one knew where she was. It seemed almost like being shut out of the world like some fairy place… She was beginning to like to be outdoors; she no longer hated the wind, but enjoyed it. She could run faster and longer, and she could skip up to one hundred. The bulbs in the Secret Garden must have been much astonished. Such nice clear places were made round them that they had all the breathing space they wanted, and really, if Mistress Mary had known it, they began to cheer up under the dark earth and work tremendously. The sun could get at them and warm them, and when the rain came down it could reach them at once, so they began to feel very much alive.” (Burnett, F. H. (2017). The Secret Garden. Virago Press.)
This reflection aims to explore the learning as a result of participation in four choreographic labatories that took place this week, to explore the principles of my solo practice off the ground, escaping the laws of gravity to undertake research through practice. As I continue to shape the reimagination of ‘The Secret Garden’ I am interested in combining dance, play, digital, improvisation, storytelling, aerial harness and visual arts to identify ways that I might apply my findings in this ambitious choreographic process.
I dance with my whole self, and process my learning with awareness, and dancing modes of attention between intellectual, instinctive, feeling and sensory learning. I aim to articulate my reflection in written form. 'Writing also provides a means by which learning can be upgraded- where connected areas of meaning cohere and a deeper meaning emerges.' (Moon, J. A. (2000). Reflection in learning and professional development: Theory and practice. Psychology Press. p.187)
All of my first encounters with Aerial Work have been with Wired Aerial Theatre. In 2014, whilst dancing with 12 Degrees North Dance Company, I was invited to attend a Vertical Wall professional development intensive for a partnership project with Left Coast. As a local artist, I did my very best to connect with the company throughout the years. I attended Bungee Assisted Dance Classes, I became a bungee workout instructor. I saw their performances in Liverpool and further afield and always thought it would be really cool to work with Wired. I kept in touch with the company and said yes to every opportunity. I have worked with Wired in a real mix of ways, from social media support, admin, performance and teaching. In 2021, I worked with Wired on Rigoletto as a performer where I was first introduced to double pick up harness work and working at height.
This summer I attended European Aerial Dance Festival and a Vertical Dance intensive and spent two weeks engaging in aerial harness technique- vertical dance. In January 2023, I plan to attend The Vertical Dance Symposium ‘Dissecting Aerial’ held by industry experts in the Aerial Dance Sector.
I now have my own small rig located in an independent gym in Birkenhead, Wirral. The view of the rig in film is obstructed by Gym Equipment and Machinery so film work won’t be to the standard, I would like its to be for my assessment footage. I feel like I have introduced a niche group of body builders and personal trainers in the Wirral to this young dance form, and have certainly changed the space through my practice.
Aerial Performance is depicted as an ‘umbrella term for all types of performative events happening off the ground.’ Eventually I would like to rig in Peel Park, however I would need financial support to enable this idea and ‘The Secret Garden’ to flourish.
I will reflect upon my active mode of viewing Aerial Performance Work including Wired Aerial Theatre’s most recent work ‘Me vs Me’, their acclaimed Vertical Wall work ‘As The World Tipped’, and ‘To Me To You’. I recently watched ‘A thousand feet deep’ by Periplum Circus in Knowsley as Knowsley Borough of Culture, and was inspired by the Aerial elements in the Creative and Cultural Placemaking Performance. I am really interested in how my work cultivates pride in place and I am currently enrolled on ‘Create Place’ Leadership Programme funded by Arts Council England, at The University of Staffordshire.
A piece that recently that captured my attention, was Gravity and Levity, ‘Why?’ (2021) “Why? is both a tender and exhilarating aerial duet exploring themes of life, loss, surrender and acceptance in a soft and moving way. The piece offers a visceral experience for its audiences that not only legitimises the emotional one but creates space for the viewer to bring their own understanding to it, triggering a resonance, not dictating their experience.” Butcher, L, 17/11/2022, Gravity and Levity: ‘Why?’ (2021) https://www.gravity-levity.net/productions/why/) Viewing this work and engaging with Gravity and Levity over summer led to me purchasing a rig so that I can begin to explore my own physical language using the climbing equipment and vertical surfaces. The opening statement of this reflection reaffirms the link between my creative enquiry and my interest in aerial dance forms in unconventional spaces. The Secret Garden is a walled garden and it offers a lot of potential for an ambitious choreographic placemaking experience in walled green spaces. In my visionary moments, I still have a way to go!
Through my recent laboratories taking place in the gym in Birkenhead, I have realised the time and effort required to enable this idea to take shape. I feel very distant from the desired outcome to convey embodied lived experience of grief and suicide to an audience. Eventually I will begin to engage in tender conversations with family, partners, the communities I work with, by and for, but for now it is me trying to make sense of this artist led proto- typing and refining my conversation starters.
I am aware of the emotional mapping of this learning journey, and feel like my current enquiry is a sign of the times I find myself in.
I am finding the work challenging and healing. I do prefer working with other dancers when it comes to creating my own work, however it is interesting exploring the personal lived experience through my own dancing body. I reflected on some of the tough moments began moving from there, but I soon became caught up on details and understanding the science of the movements and became disconnected to the premise of the movement exploration task. Towards the end of the session I became increasingly interested in the idea of threading and the continuation of lineage and generations within my family. For a brief moment I was dancing and the movement felt continuous and free. I am building up my vertical wall endurance again, and scheduled regular breaks to return to ground and reflect on my progress.
"Deeper and more sophisticated levels of reflection must rely on some understanding of how emotion affects. the process of reflection and, in practice, the reflection must demonstrate a practical ability to manage personal, emotional processes in relation to the subject matter of the reflection. This is implied in the process of metacognition and further, in the judgements that are made in the quality of personal reasoning. It is manifested in the awareness of the 'slipperiness' of reflection (Fraser, 1995; Fenwick, 2000)." (Moon, J. A. (2004). A handbook of reflective and experiential learning: Theory and practice. Psychology Press.)
I have recently uncovered that I have been surprising my feelings and emotions through survival mode to keep moving forwards and to live up to the idea of what an artist should or needs to be to carry out their best work. My relationships with dance has shifted this year, after a rejection from an audition that has resulted in lower confidence in my abilities as a performer. The feedback was that I was third in line for two jobs and the artistic director went with the two dancers that she felt would take the least amount of work for her to reach the desired results. I have always been a slow learner and I have always felt that I learn differently from the average dancer. My levels of resilience is thinner on the ground. I find myself questioning myself more and thinking that a younger dancer, with better training and experience would do a better job. My inner critic has become louder since starting university. This year, I did a performance where I was triggered mid performance and cried on stage. (See video below) I also struggled during two of my performance jobs and feel that currently I am not in the right head space to carry out the role of a performer. I have been running away from these feelings. I think losing my cousin, just so close to me in age, has been a critical incident in my career and personal life, and after the pandemic and the challenges of leaving my role and transitioning as a freelancer, I feel like I am holding on to my creative ideas and hope that I make it through this period of my life and make a sustainable career in dance. At this moment in time, I prefer to work with other artists and help them to develop. I am trying to build up my confidence, my motivation and grit. I am doing everything in my power to look after my mental health and wellbeing. As I shift back from working with dancers to solo practice, I have to find the discipline to overcome my inner critic and suspend judgement over the decisions I am making. Everything feels unnatural, and like other dancers would be able to dance it better. I feel like giving up. It could be my last dance.
"People's perspectives and sense of capabilities can change. Doors to new possibilities open that might have stayed closed which people jump through into new stories." (Neal, L. (2016). Playing for time: Making art as if the world mattered. Bloomsbury Publishing.)
I feel like I have regressed in my approaches due to feelings of lower confidence in my dancing abilities. I am struggling to connect to my work and facing personal barriers to stop me producing honest, work. It feels like a wrestle or an apathetic struggle. It feels like a job. It feels like an impossible fight. I feel like I started with an army and I'm the last man standing. I feel defeated. I feel like my energy is working against me. I understand this is probably a normal way to feel when you have lost someone so special in your life to suicide, and you have done everything in your power to keep going since.
I would like to also say that I have learned and gained so much as a result of this experience and I know this is all helping me to be better with people, more compassionate and to lead a whole hearted life. However I acknowledge that times don't feel easy. I hope my story inspires young dancers to keep going. I hope it results in the creation of a 'Secret Garden' and helps the audiences to accept themselves as they are, to get out in nature and to heal from trauma, and grief. "Trauma is anything the body perceives as too much, too fast, too soon" (Menakem, R. (2021) My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies, Penguin.)
It is a holistic practice. Many factors are contributing to the way in which I am working right now. I feel that ground work and getting to tknow the wall and familiarise with the equipment, with the space and the obstructive gym kit to develop my spatial awareness, and understanding of power, control and mind mapping is taking longer than I'd hope for. Upon reading this reflection, I realise that I am frustrated that the rig was late at being fitted and I haven't had the required time to explore this semester. I do have the rig now and I know it's best to get up there sooner rather than later and to manage my time to ensure I get what I need. I am able to identify the opportunities if I was able to scale up the project, however I am facing limitations when it comes to exploring my physicality due to size and scale of the rig I am currently working with. To achieve the desired effect, I would need higher ceilings, and longer rope to cultivate more air time, spectacle and suspension. Flips on a short rope feel risky and hyper vigilant. However, I am delighted that I am able to explore, and dedicate some time to developing choreographic language and can feel the progress I am making to enable me to develop the material I want to be making. My main frustration this week has been that it has been like starting again on the wall, my vocabulary feels limited. However I am noticing progression, reconnecting with technique and skills, the spacial proximity of working on different planes to ground based orientation. In my labs, I have been working somatically, to develop my physical literacy, to improvise freely to find a dance on the wall. I don’t feel ready to display or film my experiments for the scratch night, however I am definitely learning as I engage with this practice based research. In the space of three days, I am moving more confidently with a calm physical state. The results from today’s choreographic laboratory feel more performative with a limited vocabulary and skills. It is felt that more time and effort is required to produce an authentic visceral response linked to the context of my agenda. At present loosely choreographed sequences demonstrate strength and flexibility, however I still feel I have a way to go to achieve the intentional qualities of movement. I am interested in accessing the truth of the experience of losing someone to suicide and similarly to Gravity and Levity’s work, to convey my personal journey with grief. The dance has been accompanied by phenomenological reflections.
I am interested in reimagining the notion of the original Secret Garden, and bringing my personal lived experience to the realisation of the character of Mary Lennox. I want to challenge the themes and outdated ideas concerning mental health. I will continue to explore with the parachute which I hope to take in the air, to embrace the wind and the outdoor elements, as I have been working in my bedroom. I am interested in the relationship between indoors and outdoors, and the physical and digital interface. Through reconnecting with the story and the premise of the Secret Garden each time, I move, I deepen my relationship with the story, and dig deeper in to the idea. At times it is overwhelming but I feel this is an idea worth pursuing. Today’s reflections offered ideas for future choreographic tasks. Tomorrow I will recreate images of the illustrations provided by the book to harness a visceral response to loss, shock and trauma associated with losing someone so close suddenly to suicide. I will play with exploring weight, space and dynamics to create a short phrase of movement. Tomorrow I will create a short solo based on looking for a door in a wall. I feel that this material could help me to express my internal experiences, and personal stages of questioning my self during so much change, and dancing in the storm.
In future I would like to create a duet on the wall and I do have the resources to do so. I would need to work out the logistics.
“Vertical Dance is a new and collaborative form of dance that typically uses rock climbing equipment to suspend dancers against a range of vertical surfaces in public spaces. It’s affects are to alter familiar systems we use to orientate ourselves in space to produce or change social spaces.” (Lawrence, K. (2017) Up, down and amongst : perceptions and productions of space in vertical dance practices. [Doctoral dissertation, University of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Surrey, https://openresearch.surrey.ac.uk/esploro/outputs/doctoral/Up-down-and-amongst--perceptions/99512198002346)
I know if I have these feelings, others may be feeling like this too. I will continue to work for them. I am closer to fully forming my idea and methodology. However I am anxious about what I have to share for our ‘Scratch Night’. I feel this work could be very powerful, moving, and healing for an audience moving through the collective grief of the pandemic. I have chosen to keep going time and time again, choosing to frame my story and circumstances to help me to move forwards.
"Stories never end and we do not know how or when they begin. Only that they are threads woven across time and space, connecting people to each other... these stories grow from remembered experiences, not only our own, but all of those voices that echo in each of our hearts from other times, places, continents and people. Each story is already a fragment of a collective tapestry that is always in the making." (Santos, F in Neal, L. (2016). Playing for time: Making art as if the world mattered. Bloomsbury Publishing.)
Aerial Dance Performance Works:
The Secret Garden of Fake Believe - Participatory Performance - Indoors and Outdoors- Immersive adventure ‘phygital trail’
Music plays as audiences enter and explore the space. Music stops.
Dickon ‘Hello everyone!
Hello, I’m here to find the magic word, we’ve forgotten it! It’s a secret passcode to enter a magical place, we’ve been locked out of there for many years. Children, will you help us to find the magic password?
Until they say a loud resounding yes!
Applaud and cheer- stamp your feet and clap as loud as you can for 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
First challenge- a game of Grandma’s footsteps to win the Letters as a reward: FD
Second Challenge- make a secret handshake- to win the Letters as a reward: RM
Third Challenge- the floor is lava. to win the Letters as a reward: EE
Fourth challenge- musical statues- to win the Letters as a reward: O
Unravel and unjumble the magic word- FREEDOM.
Dickon- ‘FREEDOM, great stuff, we’ll need that magic word later.’
This is our time, let’s travel to the secret garden in our minds.
Welcome to the voyage of freedom and escape.
In the Secret Garden what will we find?
The land of Fake Believe is starting to take shape.
We see the world as we are, it’s time to take stock.
A lot has happened, it’s a sign of the times we find ourselves in,
We need to find the key, and a guide to help us to find the lock.
The lock to the magic door, towards freedom and peace.
Mary is sick of feeling like an outsider, of wanting to run away,
Of feeling frozen, and fighting to fit in,
She feels left out, and can’t find the words to say,
She feels helpless, and needs the light to pour in.
Mary, needs your help, will you help her find her way?
Adversity, unavoidable pain, a rather heavy storm.
Chasing the rainbow, and living day by day.
She’s searching for connection, for care, love and warmth.
In the storm she’s swirling, She’s sick of screaming in to the void,
Right now the world seems foggy, her memories are blurry,
In the storm, she’s frightened, her whole world has been destroyed.
She misses the smile on her face, and times where she felt free.
[Mary sat at the slump of the tree. Feeling hopeless.]
She’s feeling the stretch, it’s too much and she really is about to pop,
In the heart of the storm, the voices in her head are becoming louder and louder,
Sick and tired of feeling lost, it’s time to find space,
The Secret Garden of Fake Believe wouldn’t exist, without her.
Have you heard about the Secret Garden? An extra- ordinary, ordinary place.
That’s what makes it magic, for it’s shaped by your mind,
When you haven’t got the words, and we are dancing with big feelings,
It’s a place you can go to, when the world seems so unkind,
In the land of Fake Believe, we can connect to the real things,
We all have a Secret Garden don’t you know. But we need the magic key,
Mary needs some friends, to walk with her in solidarity, to connect to what matters,
Look, let’s follow the dancing robin, she’ll help us to see,
Soaring in flight, and bouncing along the walls, for a moment Mary forgets about the disaster,
She shows up in times like these, and the flicker of hope becomes brighter,
and reminds Mary of a glimmer of joy, feeling gently in to a dance,
In taking little steps, Mary follows the music of the birds, and she starts to feel lighter.
(After a solo here, Mary stumbles across a door, and performs a knock)
Dickon: ‘You look like you’re lost.’
Mary: ‘I’ve lost my key will you help me?’
Dickon: Ofcourse, but I’ll need help. Children, will you help me to find the lost key?
A little bit of panto style engagement.
Ok then, follow me, Dickon takes hold of the children’s hands, and leads them to the edge of the parachute, to sit at the edges.
Dickon “It matters that you are here. For this garden to grow we need your voice. Children, do you remember the magic word, after three, can you shout it as loud as you can? 1, 2, 3”
Dickon: “Freedom is the magic word. We’ve done it, we have the key, who wants to come with me to ‘The Secret Garden?! Wait here for a moment. Stay here. Ok now, start to make small waves with parachute. All that stuff bubbling away, buried underneath, that needs your attention too. The garden, has been left for some time, it’s covered in weeds, we need to sort it out.
Wow, we’ve been locked out of here for years. I knew we could do it. Time To Play.”
Dancers: Explore rapping/ chanting and body percussion rhythms- teaching a song.
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockleshells
And pretty maids all in a row
And pretty maids all in a row
Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockleshells
And pretty maids all in a row
And pretty maids all in a row
[Dance of Freedom and Exploring the Secret Garden.]
When I think about our garden, I think about trees.
In order to understand the oak, and how it came to be,
We must learn about the acorn, and explore what happened.
Our garden is a place of wonder, for fulfilment and respite.
A place to come to be in nature, a place to settle down,
It is a world full of hidden emotions, to be wild,
A place of light and shade, a place to grow,
A place of hope and despair, a place to rewild,
A spectrum of technicolour filters. A place to come and go.
In our garden, we can break the rules, a place to feel free,
We can be spontaneous, and embrace our weird,
We can express ourselves fully, a place to look up to the sky,
A chance to connect to our feelings and then allow them to drift by,
A playground of hopes, and dreams,
A playground filled with joy, sadness and laughter,
A place to laugh, cry and feel all our feels,
A place where we can speak our uncensored words,
We can play together and show up as we are,
We can draw, meditate and sing and sign,
We can beatbox, and bust a rhyme,
We can dance without fear of what our footprints might leave.
In this Secret Garden of Fake Believe.
[Start with a duet between Mary and Dickon. Colin enters. Play inspired unison. Start with accumulation in clapping game and build to beautiful dancing and uplifting ensemble]
Dickon: “Are you ready to join our adventure to Freedom?”
[Participatory improvised Score of the Secret Garden- facilitated by Dickon.}
Mary: “I choose to make this garden a wonderful place to live. I will not be confined to the walls built around me. I will be free. ”
Colin: “Where your focus and energy flows, you can do what you need to do here, stop for a moment and breathe. Look up at the sky, and watch the clouds.”
Dickon: “Thank you for visiting the secret garden. It’s time to go back home now. Goodbye.”
Music plays as the audience leaves.
This section of the website will include reflections for Lauren's MA Study. This page is linked to Lauren Tucker's studies and creative practice which is broader than the work of Tuckshop Dance Theatre. Please enjoy my reflections in this learning journey.